Sexual Harassment as Basis for Wrongful Termination
The employer-employee relationship under Maryland employment law is considered an “employment at will” relationship in most states. Under the employment at will doctrine, an employer may fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all. However, the employment at will doctrine is limited by certain “illegal reasons” for terminating an employee or an employment contract between an employer and employee.
Although an employer under Maryland employment law can fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all, an employer wrongfully terminates an employee if the basis of the termination is an “illegal reason.” The two common illegal grounds for terminating an employee include: (1) illegal discrimination or (2) illegal termination in violation of public policy.
Maryland employment law provides a number of exceptions to the general at will doctrine that protects employees from illegal discrimination based on race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age, disability or marital status. There are also reasons that are made the basis for wrongful termination based on public policy which include:
· Retaliation for filing workers compensation claims
· Trying to enforce overtime pay or minimum wage law
· Asserting rights to a safe and healthy workplace
· Refusing to commit a crime
· Report to jury or military duty
· Being subject to wage garnishment
An employee’s refusal to submit to sexual harassment is a typical example of an “illegal reason” for terminating an employee. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) statistics show that sexual harassment in the workplace continues to be a significant problem. The EEOC resolved over 11,000 sexual harassment claims in 2007 resulting in $47,400,000 in compensation for employees that were victims of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment can either be unwanted sexual advances in the work place, conduct or other physical or verbal acts of a sexual nature in the workplace. The types of conduct that can be considered sexual harassment and a basis for wrongful termination under Maryland employment law include the following:
· Direct Sexual Conduct: The employer makes unwanted sexual conduct or statements.
· Quid Pro Quo: Job or job related benefits are offered in exchange for sexual conduct.
· Hostile Work Environment: The work environment is filled with extensive sexual innuendo, comments and behavior.
If an employee is terminated because the employee refuses to submit to sexual harassment, the employee may be able to sue for sexual harassment and/or wrongful termination. The employee does not have to actually be terminated by the employer to bring a claim for wrongful termination. If an employee leaves the employment relationship to avoid discriminatory sexual harassment, the employee’s termination can be characterized as a “constructive termination.”
If you have been wrongfully terminated for sexual harassment or some other reason, a Maryland employment attorney can assist you in navigating federal employment law and Maryland employment law. To bring a wrongful termination suit based on sexual harassment or other unlawful reason, you need a Maryland employment lawyer to assist you with the strict timing and procedural requirements. For a Maryland employment law attorney to assist you with your wrongful termination or sexual harassment case, click here.